Friend or foe? 

Charles Darwin's study of emotions in animals - an angry ships' cat and a submissive sea dog.When ships’ cats met seadogs was it war or peace? Depends, says Able Sea-cat Bart sharing happy families snaps of shipboard life plus Matthew Flinder’s Trim being rather a troublemaker to prove he was the undisputed master of the dogs onboard.

Trim ~ undisputed master of the dogs on board

“We had several dogs on board the Spyall, but Trim was undisputed master of them all. When they were at play upon the deck, he would go in amongst them with his stately air; and giving a blow at the eyes of one, and a scratch on the nose to another, oblige them to stand out of his way. He was capable of being animated against a dog, as dogs usually may be against a cat; and I have more than once sent him from the quarterdeck to drive a dog off the forecastle.”

“He would run half the way briskly, crouching like a lion which has prey in view; but then assuming a majestic deportment, and without being deterred by the menacing attitude of his opponent, he would march straight up to him, and give him a blow on the nose, accompanied with a threatening mew! If the dog did not immediately retreat, he flew at him with his war cry of Yow! If resistance was still made, he leaped up on the rail over his head and so bespattered him about the eyes that he was glad to run off howling. Trim pursued him till he took refuge below; and then returned smiling to his master to receive his caresses.” 

CREDIT Matthew Flinders, A biographical tribute to the memory of Trim, Isle de France, December 1809 (Royal Museums Greenwich Collection, Copyright Lisette Flinders Petrie)
ILLUSTRATION TOP From The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals by Charles Darwin, 1872. Illustration by Mr. Riviere
ILLUSTRATION BELOW An afternoon nap on the Olympia, by Wayne

Ships cats know a good place for a nap. A seafaring feline curled up with a salty seadog.

You’ve just got to rub along

My take on thisIt was a win-win for Trim. He was Matthew Flinder’s cat and Flinders was the commander. So he was very much “teacher’s pet” and could be a bit of a troublemaker on occasion. The dogs on the other had clearly been to obedience school. In my experience, mutual toleration tended to rule the waves. It had to, as Jack Tar authors Roy and Lesley Adkins reckon Nelson’s Navy must have resembled floating menageries.

Cabby the ships' cat and the dog rescued form the river

Along with numerous mascots and pets roaming around (dogs, monkeys and parrots) there was livestock (pigs, sheep, bullocks, goats, geese, ducks, turkeys, chickens and even cows). Life on board may not have been Isaiah’s “Peaceable Kingdom” with everyone living happily ever after together, but it wasn’t mayhem.

A hundred years later when Ernest Shackleton set off for Antarctica on his third voyage (1921), things weren’t so very different. “Our ship had become a floating farmyard, for our livestock included sheep, geese, fowls, pig, cat, and, to stir them up and make things lively, our own dog Query, who had never before had so many interesting real live things to play with,” reports Frank Wild who took command after Shackleton died on South Georgia.

“The sow Bridget and the geese wandered all about the decks and got in the way generally. One gander was quite a character. He was blind of one eye and had a curious knack of standing with head on one side, quizzically regarding anyone he encountered. Regularly about once an hour he uttered a loud and very startling goose-call. We called him Nelson, and his mate, who followed him like a shadow wherever he went, was known as Jemima.” (Quest: Shackleton’s Last Voyage, 1923)

Not just seafurring felines but all manner of animals. Sailors with a dog, a rabbit, a duck and a donkey, all rescued from Gallipoli.

Definitely Peaceable Kingdom of sorts. I don’t have a photo of Quest’s floating farmyard, but found this PR shot from the Portsmouth Dockyard Historic Collection of HMS Centurion’s crew with Pip, Squeak and Wilfred plus a refugee mule from Gallipoli that certainly suggests a Peaceable Kingdom.

The names I am told come from a comic strip in the Daily Mirror by Bertram J. Lamb (Uncle Dick) and illos by Austin Bowen Payne. Pip was the dog, Squeak the penguin and Wilfred the young rabbit. 

ILLUSTRATION Ship’s cat with Cabby, the dog who was picked up while swimming in the Sepik River, New Guinea, and then served in the Australian Navy New Guinea Flotilla from 1914 to 1919 (Donor Captin A.G. Bond) Australian War Memorial
ILLUSTRATION Pip the dog, Squeak the rabbit, Wilfred the duck and a ‘refugee’ donkey from the bombardment of Gallipoli, photographed on board HMS Centurion c.1915


Peaceable Kingdom

While not quite a real life wolf cosying up with a kid, the peaceable pair enjoying their afternoon nap on USS Olympia heading up this post is reminiscent of an Edward Hicks’ “Peaceable Kingdom” scene.

Detail from Edward Hicks' painting “The Peaceable Kingdom” showing an ox, a wolf, a lion and what may be a seafurring feline with a child.

The phrase first pops up in Isaiah 11:1–9), but some 200 years ago American Quaker artist Edward Hicks made it famous and pretty much his own with 61-plus paintings showing a world where all creatures live together peacefully. Forever.

“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.” — King James Bible 

ILLUSTRATION Edward Hicks The Peaceable Kingdom (detail), c.1833